Valparaiso (7-16, 3-9 Horizon)
Game #24: Thursday, February 16, 2012, 7:05 p.m. CST
vs. UIC (15-9, 8-5 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Upcoming in Crusader Basketball: After winning back-to-back games on the road, Valparaiso returns home to the Athletics-Recreation Center for four of its final six regular season games. The Crusaders open the stretch on Thursday evening battling UIC while looking for their third straight win for the first time since November of 2009.
On the Air: Thursday’s game will be carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at valpoathletics.com. Chris Kleinhans-Schulz and Mike Pudlow will call all of the action live from the Athletics-Recreation Center. The game can also be seen live online through valpoathletics.com as part of the Horizon League Network. Live stats will be available through valpoathletics.com for all games this season as well.
Head Coach Keith Freeman: In his 18th season on the Valparaiso bench, Keith Freeman has a 283-242 (.539) record at the helm of the Brown and Gold. In his 23rd season overall, Freeman has a 412-289 (.588) career mark. He is Valpo’s all-time winningest coach and has amassed more than half of the victories in the program’s history.
Series Notes: Valparaiso and UIC are meeting for the 36th time in a series that dates back to Dec. 4, 1980. The Crusaders lead the overall series 19-16 but the Flames have won five of the last six meetings between the two schools, including three straight. In the first meeting this year between the two schools, UIC posted a 54-43 victory over the Crusaders in Chicago on Jan. 21. Valpo is 11-4 against the Flames all-time at the ARC, but UIC has won the last two. The Crusaders’ last win against UIC came on March 6, 2010, an 88-77 win in the Windy City.
Wrapping Up Butler: Ashley Timmerman scored the first 10 points of the second half to help rally Valpo from a one-point halftime deficit and defeat the Bulldogs 72-59 last Saturday in Indianapolis. Tabitha Gerardot scored a career high 26 points for the Crusaders while Timmerman finished the game with 13 points. Laura Richards made 8-of-9 from the free throw line to finish with 12 points while Devin Brierly led Butler with 20 points. Valpo shot a season high 52.1% from the floor, including 7-of-11 (63.6%) from three-point range.
Scouting UIC: The Flames have won six of their last eight games including two straight following a 72-50 win at home against Cleveland State on Saturday afternoon. UIC is 11-2 at home this year but just 4-7 away from the UIC Pavilion. Jasmine Bailey ranks second in the Horizon League averaging 18.2 points per game and is fourth in the conference with 9.7 boards per night. Shamiea Green (15.3 ppg) and Kiara Strickland (12.7 ppg) also are scoring in double figures on the year for the Flames. As a team UIC leads the conference in rebounding margin at +5.8 per night while grabbing 14.2 offensive boards.
Perfect vs. the Hoosier State: With the win at Butler on Saturday afternoon, Valparaiso finished the regular season a perfect 5-0 against fellow teams from the state of Indiana. The Crusaders downed the Bulldogs twice and also defeated Ball State, IPFW, and Indiana-Northwest.
26 is the Magic Number: After failing to have a player score 20 or more points in a game for the first 21 contests of the year, Valparaiso has had back-to-back 26-point efforts at Cleveland State and Butler. Ashley Varner tallied her career high against the Vikings on Feb. 4, making 13 free throws in the win. Tabitha Gerardot then tallied her career best last Saturday against the Bulldogs, connecting on 10 field goals in the victory.
Making Shots: Valpo shot a season high 52.1% from the floor on Saturday afternoon in the win against Butler, including a 64.0% (18-of-25) clip in the second half. All seven of the Crusaders’ victories this season have come when shooting a better percentage than their opponents.
Dialing Long Range: The Crusaders connected on 7-of-11 three-pointers against the Bulldogs, connecting on 63.6% from long range. The long range shooting ties for the eighth best single game percentage from beyond the arc in school history.
Getting Defensive: Valparaiso ranks among the Horizon League leaders in most defensive categories. The Crusaders are second in the conference, and 85th nationally, allowing just 57.9 points per game. Valpo also ranks third in field goal percentage defense (37.6%) as well as three-point field goal percentage defense (30.0%).
Showing Second Half Improvement: With two victories in the first three games of the second half of Horizon League play, the Crusaders have already improved over the first half in terms of win output. In fact, in every year since Valpo joined the Horizon League, the Brown and Gold has tallied as many, if not more, conference wins during the second half of league play as the first.
Richards Ties Career High: Laura Richards matched her season and career high scoring 12 points in the win at Butler on Saturday. The junior point guard made 8-of-9 free throws in the game, including six in the game’s final 1:15 to secure the victory.
It’s Been Awhile: Valpo’s back-to-back road victories at Cleveland State and Butler mark the first time the Crusaders have won two straight road contests since March of 2008. In fact, Saturday’s win marked Valpo’s first win over Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1983.
Nearly Automatic from the Stripe: Tabitha Gerardot is shooting 85.4% (41-of-48) from the free throw line since Horizon League play began this year. She has made 24 of her last 25 free throw attempts dating back to Jan. 19. For the season Gerardot is shooting at a 80.2% (77-of-96) clip which ranks fourth in the conference.
Varner on the Rebounding List: Ashley Varner has continued to climb the Crusaders’ all-time rebounding charts this season, passing Katie Boone (2001-2005) for 14th on the career list. The fifth-year senior’s 523 career boards are 14 boards behind Jill Otto (1985-1989) for 13th on the career charts.
Top-10 for Richards on Assists Chart: Laura Richards has moved into 10th place all-time at Valpo with 261 assists, passing Kathryn Knoester (2000-2004) on the career charts. Richards is three assists behind Lisa Winter (1998-2000) for ninth on the all-time list and 17 helpers behind Suzie Hammel (2000-2004) for a spot in the top-eight.
What Foul?: With such a short bench, fouls have become a premium this season for the Crusaders. Valpo has done a good job of staying out of foul trouble all season, committing just 13.4 fouls per game this season, 14th fewest among all NCAA Division I schools. In fact, the Crusaders went the entire first half without an infraction on Jan. 19 at Loyola (Chicago).
Varner Earns Academic Honor: Ashley Varner was named as the Horizon League’s Scholar-Athlete of the Month for December. The fifth-year senior averaged 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in seven contests during the month, posting four double-doubles. In the classroom she is enrolled in graduate school working on her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling after already earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Gerardot Garners All-Tournament Team Accolades: Tabitha Gerardot was named to the Omni Hotels Classic All-Tournament Team following her efforts last weekend against Colorado and Montana State. The sophomore forward averaged 10 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest while shooting 57.1% (8-of-14) from the floor in Boulder, Colo.
Getting to the Free Throw Line: Ashley Varner made 13-of-18 free throws against Cleveland State on Feb. 4. Her 13 free throws made tie her for fifth on Valpo’s single game list while her 18 attempts mark the third most by any Crusader in a game in school history.
Valpo Signs Three for 2012-2013: Coach Keith Freeman added three players for next year’s class that have signed National Letters of Intent to play for the Brown and Gold beginning next fall. Joining the Crusader roster in 2012-2013 are guards Abby Dean (5-10, Carmel, Ind./Carmel H.S.), Sarah Godwin (5-10, Yardley, Pa./Princeton Day H.S. [N.J.]), and Jessi Wiedemann (6-0, Palatine, Ill./Fremd H.S.).
This and That: Ieva Jansone tallied career highs with three steals, two assists, and her first Valpo block at Butler ... Ashley Timmerman finished one point shy of a season high with 13 points against the Bulldogs ... Tabitha Gerardot matched her career high with three assists on Saturday ... Valpo’s 72 points against Butler were the most against a Division I opponent since scoring 72 in a win against Loyola (Chicago) on Feb. 17, 2011 ... Saturday against Loyola will mark the Crusaders’ pink Play for Kay game in support of breast cancer awareness.